Geoffrey Theobald: Fundamental change needed in way council operates

The Conservative Group set out proposals for reforming how the council operates.

Sunday, 11th October 2015, 7:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:32 pm

In our manifesto for the local elections, the Conservative Group set out proposals for reforming and modernising how the council operates.

The council's most recent independent Audit Results Report spells out in black and white how necessary these reforms are. The auditors conclude: 'As a result of its high costs relative to others, the difficulties experienced in fully delivering Value for Money savings targets in 2014/15 and the size of the budget gap faced over the next five years, there is a recognition that the council needs to change more radically.'

Councils up and down the country - of all political colours, for five years or more - have been making these fundamental changes.

York City Council's library service changed from council control into a not-for-profit Industrial and Provident Society; councils such as Brent and Greenwich outsourced the running of children's centres to external charities, schools, and community groups; Leeds City Council set up a Community Benefit Society to run its Learning Disability Services; Adur and Worthing Councils are handing over management of parks, open spaces, and sports pitches to community groups; and Northamptonshire County Council has combined back-office support services with Cambridgeshire County Council - saving taxpayers millions of pounds.

As a result, these councils are in a much better position than Brighton and Hove to deal with the changing financial climate in local government. The Conservative Group has submitted a letter to the council's acting chief executive requesting urgent action. This will be debated at next week's policy and resources committee and I very much hope the new Labour administration will back our ideas.

I was delighted to hear George Osborne's announcement at the Conservative Party Conference that councils are to be allowed to keep 100% of the business rates they collect and will be able to offer discounts to stimulate economic growth. I have been calling for a number of years for this change, which now gives us a huge incentive to work pro-actively with developers and potential investors to bring forward new schemes and developments in the city.

Geoffrey Theobald, a Conservative councilor for Patcham, is leader of the Conservative Group on Brighton and Hove City Council.